Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 12-13-2019


Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE), the leading cause of childhood developmental disability, has long-lasting effects extending throughout the lifespan. The teratogenic effects of PAE, not always physically discernable, may corrupt brain structure resulting in neural dysfunction. These aberrant effects often result in executive functioning deficits, associated with social and academic difficulties, which hinder typical development. As maternal alcohol use during pregnancy is heavily stigmatized, children without physical dysmorphology often go unreported and untreated; resulting in increased deficiencies compared to those more severely affected who receive early life interventions. This phenomenon requires the discovery of neurophysiological makers of PAE in order to facilitate early identification and in turn early life interventions. Structural, functional, and behavioral deficits in individuals with PAE are well known. However, little research has been conducted assessing how these deficits in structure and function are associated together and with behavior. In this dissertation, we intend to show how white matter integrity as assessed by fractional anisotropy is associated with neural functioning, assed via magnetoencephalography, and how this association relates to behavior. It is well documented that children prenatally exposed to alcohol have difficulties inhibiting behavior and sustaining attention. Thus, the Sustained Attention to Response Task, a Go/No-go paradigm, is especially well suited to assess the behavioral and neural functioning characteristics of PAE children. This dissertation shows that children 8-12 years old with PAE have decreased associations between brain structure and functions, and that these deficits are associated with poorer performance on neuropsychological functioning.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

James Cavanagh

Second Committee Member

Derek Hamilton

Third Committee Member

Dina Hill

Fourth Committee Member

Julia Stephen




Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Magnetoencephalography, Fractional Anisotropy, Joint Independent Component Analysis, Neuropsychological Evaluations

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